If only Daniel Craig weren’t so damned sexy, there might be a weirdly vicious Wolverine movie coming out this summer directed by Darren Aranofsky.
We’ll come back to that. First you’ve gotta know some things about “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which comes out today and stars Andrew Garfield (Eduardo in “The Social Network”) as Spider-Man.
There was already a series of three “Spider-Man” flicks starring Tobey Maguire. The first one was good, the second was great and the third was awful. Now comes this new version. Rebooting comic book movies makes sense, especially this one. There have been a ton of “Spider-Man” series pumping through your local comic book store. “Amazing Spider-Man.” “Spectacular Spider-Man.” “Ultimate.” “Web of.” There was a cool series set in the future called “Spider-Man 2099.”
The same thing happens with Batman and Superman and all the iconic heroes that endure so well over decades. Some artist has a different take on the characters and gets to launch his own version of the saga. This happens all the time.
The movie “The Amazing Spider-Man,” though, is not a reboot. No way. There are some really good things about it – like how cleverly the web shooters work and Garfield’s great performance – but the thing that sucks about it is also the reason they can’t claim to be trying something new: It’s the same completely predictable story we saw in the first Tobey McGuire movie, and has the same basic plot elements as the first TWO “Spider-Man” movies.
Much was made of how the director’s only other movie was a charming little romantic dramedy called “(500) Days of Summer.” He was brought on to make Spider-Man more of a normal, angsty kid.
This was exactly the approach of the first set of movies, and it is boring. The relationship to the villain, the lectures, the girl, the fights where bystanders help out, the narrow disaster aversion at the end…. If you have seen a Tobey McGuire “Spider-Man” movie then you already know everything that happens in “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
But it isn’t terrible, so whatever. Let’s get back to Wolverine. The year was 2010, and Darren Aranofsky was melting moviegoer’s brains with “Black Swan,” a gory, twisted little Oscar-winning ballerina movie that teems with animal lust and psychedelic terror. One of Aranofsky’s other films is the ridiculously entertaining, totally horrifying heroine classic “Requiem for a Dream.” (“Requiem’s” music score will haunt first time viewers for days. It gets stuck in your head and flashes the mind unwillingly back to the film’s crazier scenes.)
Aranofsky is an intense artist, and his stuff is really dark. To hear he was making a Wolverine movie was joyous for those of us who prefer this roaring badass…
…to this pathetic pussy…
After agreeing to take on Wolverine – the coolest of all X-Men, incidentally – in 2010, Aranofsky said “We’re definitely going to make something great” and “I have a feeling [that] by the time I get done with it, it will be something a little bit different.”
Hugh Jackman – who plays Wolverine and can be excellent when the part’s good – said of the project “There’s going to be some meat on the bones. There will be something to think about as you leave the theater, for sure.”
It sounded so awesome.
Then it fell apart.
For that, we can blame God. Shooting was supposed to happen in Japan, where the Wolverine-vs.-samurais story takes place, but then that monumental disaster of a tsunami hit.
We can also blame Daniel Craig. Now this – and everything else I’m basically writing here – is all from reading stupid stories on the internet, but as I understand it Aranofsky was planning Wolverine when his girlfriend of many years broke up with him. The girlfriend is Oscar-winning stunner Rachel Weisz (she was in the first “Mummy” movie and won her Oscar for “The Constant Gardner”). They have a kid together, and Aranofsky said his reason for dropping the movie was “I was not comfortable being away from my family for that length of time.”
Damn your roguish good looks, Daniel Craig! Weisz was filming “Dream House” with Craig (Rottentomatoes.com meter: 6%) at about the same time Aranofsky and Hugh Jackman were planning the Wolverine movie together (with a script, by the way, from the dude who wrote “The Usual Suspects”). Weisz and Craig wound up in love, and they’re married now. She must have dumped Aranofsky, and the personal drama probably had at least a little to do with the Wolverine movie dissolving.
(My apologies to the three of you for even writing this stuff. I like your movies a lot.)
That Wolverine movie was going to be a reboot – a different story and style applied to the same character, just like Christopher Nolan’s done with his great new Batman movies. Except Aranofsky has as an even sharper edge than Nolan. I dare say the Wolverine flick was going to be rated R.
Speaking of Nolan’s Batman movies, there’s another distinction I think is important to make when considering why “The Amazing Spider-Man” belongs in the “Bad” bin, historically, while “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” belong in the “Good.” The latter films feature a protagonist who is awash in angst and sadness and yet HE DOES NOT CRY. Spider-Man, in this new one, is constantly crying.
It’s one crying scene after another for over an hour. You will sit there with your 3D glasses on, wondering why in the world you needed 3D glasses for a teenager tearjerker. Eventually, thankfully, there is about five minutes when the 3D gets cool.
One of my favorite Spider-Man comic books when I was a kid showed Venom, his all-time greatest villain, holding up a skull wearing the tattered remnants of Spider-Man’s mask. In it, Venom has taken Spider-Man to a deserted island so he can scare him and fight him. It takes a series of physical and mental heroics for Spider-Man to barely get away.
We never see a short, clean little comic book movie like that. My old roommate Daniel and I used to talk about this important issue a lot, and we decided the next Spider-Man or X-Men or whatever should be directed by Quentin Tarantino, and it needed Daniel Day Lewis to star as the bad guy (didn’t matter who, but I vote Carnage). You show me that movie, and I will love it forever.
That’s what we lost in the moment when Weisz’s gaze met Craig’s glistening abs and Aranofsky’s Wolverine dropped dead. That’s what we’re losing with every new Spider-Man movie. These guys are ignoring hundreds of stories told over decades of Spider-Man adventures, choosing instead to recycle the same tired tale over and over.
“The Dark Knight Rises” comes out in a few weeks. After than, we might be screwed on cool comic movies.
(And what’s up with no-nose Lizard? This is what he looked like in the comics:
This is Lizard in the new movie:
I don’t understand why, creatively, the filmmakers would want to make him less lizard-like. Their version is more carnival-freak than reptile.)